Colorado center John Mitchell could possibly be one of the most under appreciated players in the NHL. He certainly is amongst Colorado Avalanche fans. He does everything you can ask for as a coach and more.
Its only since he has been out injured, that people start to notice how well he plays while balancing the lineup out quite nicely. We all noticed it in the first round playoff series against the Minnesota Wild, where Mitchell was sorely missed. Mitchell has been blamed all too often of trying to do too much with the puck, amongst other things.
Now that he is not in the line-up, it seems the Colorado Avalanche miss him more than people may realize or care to admit. I guess its true that you don’t know what you have until its gone or injured. John Mitchell is Mr.Utility and is overlooked far too often, however if he continues to play like he has for the Avalanche, that will no longer be the case.
John Mitchell centering your third line is a great thing to have. Mitchell provides good puck handling and protecting skills, is reliable in the faceoff circle, is a decent defender, possesses good size, and has a great quick wrist shot.
His versatility is probably his best asset as he his one of the best utility players out there. Mitchell plays on the penalty kill while also being able to slot in on the second power play unit if someone is injured or if things need shaking up. Also able to play every forward position, John Mitchell is quite valuable when you get down to it.
He is determined and hard working, the Avalanche cannot afford to be without him for much longer. He was injured in the playoffs but also as of right now he is having headache issues but is inching closer to a return, we hope. When John Mitchell comes back, he will immediately balance out the lineup and provide relief for the first and second lines. The third line will then consist of McGinn – Mitchell – Briere, allowing Talbot to round out the fourth line with Winchester and McLeod.
With his inclusion, Mitchell gives the Avalanche instant depth on the offensive and defensive side of the puck. Last season Mitchell posted 32 points in 75 games while posting a plus/minus rating of plus 13. Those are very solid numbers for a third line center, who also plays on the penalty kill unit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see those numbers increase this season with the added depth to the bottom 6.
Right now, and in any case when your third line center goes down, especially one as good as John Mitchell, the top two lines are a bit overplayed it seems and the team can’t really roll all four lines throughout the game. Something which coach Patrick Roy likes to do, and wants to be able to do. With Jesse Winchester also out, Colorado are having to cope early on without their two bottom 6 centers.
According to sources, Mitchell is out with migraines and is nearing a comeback. Having practiced recently but not quite feeling 100 percent, we will have to wait and see how much longer it will be. One thing that is certain, Colorado needs this man back centering their third line while providing the team with anything else they may need from him. John Mitchell leaves it all out on the ice, doing everything necessary to get the job done. The Avalanche are most certainly missing their Mr.Utility.
As soon as Mitchell is ready to go, he will have an instant impact on the team as a whole, not just the third line. The level of importance to this team he possesses has gone unnoticed at many times, however that is starting to change as people start to realize how much better the team is with him rather than without.
Sebastian Noble is currently in his third year with The Hockey Writers covering the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers. Liverpool, England, and of course Colorado Avalanche & Florida Panthers supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @SebastianHNoble